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PETER HAMMILL

Eclectic Prog • United Kingdom


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Peter Hammill biography
Peter Joseph Andrew Hammill (born 5 November 1948 in Ealing, West London, England)

Peter HAMMILL is one of the most unique and influential voices in prog. He was the pivotal figure in VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR (VDGG for short) who formed in 1967 at Manchester University. His obsession with lost love, lost faith, time, space and existence itself are the cornerstones of both his work with the band and his solo albums. He was also their principle songwriter. The classic line-up was the HAMMILL, Banton, Jaxon, Evans combo which produced the peak "Pawn Hearts", "Still Life" and "Godbluff" albums. He has since brought out at least 30 solo albums, marked by lyrics of the utmost insight (usually) and a total refusal to compromise. Their complex music, as often brutal as it was lyrical, fitted somewhat uneasily into the once and then niche of Progressive Rock. An interesting figure whose albums certainly merit investigation..!

The first of a classic trilogy in progressive rock history, "Chameleon"... and its companion pieces "The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage" and "In Camera", are as good if not better than many of the VDGG albums. FOR FANS OF PETER HAMMILL...!

See also:
- Van Der Graaf Generator
- The Long Hello

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Buy PETER HAMMILL Music


Fools MateFools Mate
Extra tracks · Remastered
Emi Europe Generic 2005
$7.44
$7.43 (used)
From The TreesFrom The Trees
Fie 2017
$10.85
$10.84 (used)
Roaring FortiesRoaring Forties
Remastered
FIE 2003
$11.55
$7.10 (used)
Everyone You HoldEveryone You Hold
Discipline Us 1998
$8.00 (used)
All That Might Have BeenAll That Might Have Been
Box set
Fie 2015
$28.49
$24.85 (used)
Silent Corner & The Empty StageSilent Corner & The Empty Stage
Extra tracks · Remastered
Caroline 2006
$5.39
$6.57 (used)
Chameleon in the Shadow of the NightChameleon in the Shadow of the Night
Extra tracks · Remastered
Emi Europe Generic 2006
$5.43
$6.71 (used)
In CameraIn Camera
Extra tracks · Remastered
Emi Europe Generic 2006
$5.46
$4.05 (used)
Nadirs Big ChanceNadirs Big Chance
Remastered
Emi Europe Generic 2007
$5.36
$3.97 (used)
Right Now on Ebay (logo)
Peter Hammill - Margin + Live (CD Used Like New) USD $17.62 Buy It Now 1h 19m
PETER HAMMILL - AND CLOSE AS THIS. JAPAN.OBI.MINI-LP SLEEVE USD $10.50 [2 bids]
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Peter Hammill - Sitting Targets / 1981 PVC LP NM Vinyl USD $12.95 Buy It Now 2h 10m
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Peter Hammill ?- X My Heart CD - FIE 9111 - Mint USD $15.71 Buy It Now 7h 28m
PETER HAMMILL Black Box review 1980 UK ARTICLE/clipping Van Der Graaf Generator USD $10.63 Buy It Now 7h 58m
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PETER HAMMILL - 4 CD SET Mini LP (Japan) New USD $170.00 Buy It Now 9h 13m
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PETER HAMMILL X My Heart 1996 UK 9 TRACK CD ALBUM - VAN DER GRAFF GENERATOR PROG USD $13.36 Buy It Now 10h 20m
Peter Hammill / VDGG Pawn Hearts Newsletter November 1991 USD $13.36 Buy It Now 10h 42m
PETER HAMMILL FUTURE NOW , LP, UK USD $27.00 Buy It Now 13h 28m
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Peter Hammill The Future Now LP UK CAS 1137 VG+ USD $12.50 Buy It Now 14h 35m
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Sitting Targets Peter Hammill UK vinyl LP album record V2205 VIRGIN 1981 USD $25.34 Buy It Now 17h 25m
PETER HAMMILL UK LP 1973 Chameleon In The Shadow Of The Night 1st Press A2B1 EX USD $27.00 [0 bids]
USD $36.00 Buy It Now
18h 8m
Peter Hammill - The Silent Corner and The Empty Stage Vinyl LP Charisma 1974 USD $22.72 [0 bids]
18h 16m
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PETER HAMMILL Chameleon In The Shadow Of The Night CD 2006 CHARISMA/VIRGIN M USD $2.01 [0 bids]
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PETER HAMMILL Love Songs CD UK Virgin 1984 10 Track (Cascd1166) USD $6.67 Buy It Now 2 days
PETER HAMMILL Future Now CD European Virgin 1978 12 Track (Cascd1137) USD $21.72 Buy It Now 2 days
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PETER HAMMILL Fools Mate CD European Virgin 1971 12 Track (Cascd1037) USD $14.70 Buy It Now 2 days
PETER HAMMILL Nadir's Big Chance CD European Virgin 1975 11 Track (Cascd1099) USD $11.89 Buy It Now 2 days
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CRAZY HOUSE BURNING RAIN EP Chrysalis 1988 12 inch EP Peter Hammill Prod B Side USD $7.50 Buy It Now 2 days

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PETER HAMMILL discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

PETER HAMMILL top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.77 | 299 ratings
Fool's Mate
1971
4.04 | 325 ratings
Chameleon In The Shadow Of The Night
1973
4.31 | 765 ratings
The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage
1974
4.14 | 346 ratings
In Camera
1974
3.77 | 242 ratings
Nadir's Big Chance
1975
3.97 | 308 ratings
Over
1977
3.50 | 195 ratings
The Future Now
1978
3.66 | 185 ratings
pH7
1979
3.93 | 219 ratings
A Black Box
1980
3.54 | 160 ratings
Sitting Targets
1981
3.75 | 139 ratings
Enter K
1982
3.71 | 129 ratings
Patience
1983
3.20 | 74 ratings
Loops & Reels
1983
2.97 | 110 ratings
Skin
1986
3.57 | 113 ratings
And Close As This
1986
2.80 | 84 ratings
In A Foreign Town
1988
3.32 | 90 ratings
Out Of Water
1990
3.44 | 97 ratings
The Fall Of The House Of Usher
1991
3.05 | 56 ratings
Peter Hammill-Guy Evans: Spur Of The Moment
1991
3.71 | 123 ratings
Fireships
1992
2.77 | 76 ratings
The Noise
1993
2.32 | 40 ratings
Offensichtlich Goldfisch
1993
3.29 | 84 ratings
Roaring Forties
1994
3.21 | 81 ratings
X My Heart
1996
2.42 | 56 ratings
Sonix
1996
3.46 | 80 ratings
Everyone You Hold
1997
3.44 | 77 ratings
This
1998
2.82 | 43 ratings
Roger Eno & Peter Hammill: The Appointed Hour
1999
3.98 | 83 ratings
The Fall Of The House Of Usher (New Version)
1999
2.79 | 65 ratings
None Of The Above
2000
3.27 | 66 ratings
What , Now?
2001
2.75 | 51 ratings
Unsung
2001
3.59 | 75 ratings
Clutch
2002
3.75 | 99 ratings
Incoherence
2004
3.58 | 90 ratings
Singularity
2006
3.31 | 94 ratings
Thin Air
2009
3.59 | 66 ratings
Consequences
2012
3.58 | 69 ratings
Peter Hammill/Gary Lucas: Other World
2014
3.62 | 39 ratings
...All That Might Have Been...
2014
3.84 | 28 ratings
From The Trees
2017

PETER HAMMILL Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.74 | 44 ratings
The Margin +
1985
3.34 | 42 ratings
Room Temperature Live
1990
3.60 | 34 ratings
There Goes the Daylight
1993
3.65 | 29 ratings
The Peel Sessions
1995
3.19 | 16 ratings
Tides
1996
3.20 | 23 ratings
The Union Chapel Concert (with Guy Evans)
1997
4.30 | 43 ratings
Typical (Solo Performances)
1999
4.00 | 40 ratings
Veracious (with Stuart Gordon)
2006
3.59 | 17 ratings
In The Passionskirche - Berlin MCMXCII
2009
3.88 | 8 ratings
PNO GTR VOX - Live Performances
2011
3.71 | 7 ratings
Live At Rockpalast - Hamburg 1981
2016

PETER HAMMILL Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

3.93 | 9 ratings
In The Passionskirche - Berlin MCMXCII (video)
1992

PETER HAMMILL Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.66 | 9 ratings
Vision
1978
3.00 | 1 ratings
Peter Hammill
1982
2.58 | 34 ratings
The Love Songs
1984
3.86 | 3 ratings
The Essential Collection
1986
3.00 | 1 ratings
Enter K / Patience
1986
3.00 | 1 ratings
Il Rock
1989
4.00 | 14 ratings
The Calm (After The Storm)
1993
3.31 | 13 ratings
The Storm (Before The Calm)
1993
3.02 | 6 ratings
Past Go - Collected
1996
3.20 | 5 ratings
After The Show (A Collection)
1996
3.00 | 1 ratings
Ο Άγγελος Του Παράξενου
1997
2.33 | 6 ratings
The Thin Man Sings Ballads
2001
3.00 | 1 ratings
Fools Mate / In Camera
2003
3.16 | 6 ratings
Pno, Gtr, Vox, Box - 84 Live Performances
2012

PETER HAMMILL Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

4.00 | 5 ratings
Red Shift
1973
2.17 | 4 ratings
Birthday Special / Shingle Song
1975
4.33 | 3 ratings
Crying Wolf
1977
2.67 | 3 ratings
If I Could
1978
2.33 | 3 ratings
My Experience
1981
3.00 | 3 ratings
Paradox Drive
1982
2.50 | 2 ratings
Film Noir
1983
2.33 | 8 ratings
Just Good Friends
1985
1.50 | 2 ratings
Painting by Numbers
1986
1.50 | 2 ratings
A Fix On The Mix
1992

PETER HAMMILL Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Noise by HAMMILL, PETER album cover Studio Album, 1993
2.77 | 76 ratings

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The Noise
Peter Hammill Eclectic Prog

Review by zampino

4 stars I must be one of the few who really likes this record. After the heavy hand of Usher, and the sometimes cloying aspects of Fireships, I found this refreshing. Some of the comments here regard the lyrics, but songs like "Like a shot, the Entertainer" are both insightful, skeptical, and open to interpretation, and the grooves and playing are compelling. Similarly "A Kick to kill the kiss" is great word play in a great setting. Personally I'd remove "The Great European Department Store", but that's the only song that hasn't resonated with me over many listens.

I believe the problem is how "pop" these songs are compared to previous work, but for me it's the start of the modern Peter Hammill, writing songs and not trying to prove how intellectually sophisticated and different his music is. I find it refreshing, and suggest the listener take on his solo catalog in sequence to see how this pushes Hammill forward in the direction that represent the bulk of his coming work. Put it also into perspective with Foreign Town or Out of Water, which use more obvious/electronic beats that date the music; I find "The Noise" to hold up better over the year as a more organic rock record. It's not perfect, but it's a good and unique record with lyrics that fit into a prog listener's aesthetic.

 Pno, Gtr, Vox, Box - 84 Live Performances by HAMMILL, PETER album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2012
3.16 | 6 ratings

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Pno, Gtr, Vox, Box - 84 Live Performances
Peter Hammill Eclectic Prog

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

3 stars In 2011 Peter Hammill released 2-CD live set "PNO GTR VOX" of his specifically themed solo performances in Japan; on one gig PH is backing himself solely on acoustic guitar, and on another gig with piano (1st and 2nd discs of this release), and later on he changes the instrument during the gig (or disc), but never using both on a same song. No other musicians or instruments are involved in this entire 7-CD box. Sounds like it was made for die-hard fans only, doesn't it? I'm not such fan, even less a completionist for ANY artist, and actually I was very close to give a "collectors/fans only" two-star rating, as that description hits the nail. Let's get it straight at once: clearly this IS fan stuff, not recommended for more casual Hammill listeners. That being said, I'll use the rating scale more freely, based on my personal reception.

Peter Hammill is an artist that strongly divides opinions. Either you like him or you can't get into his music at all. I do like him, and Van der Graaf Generator especially, but definitely not everything he's done. And often, in this case more than ever, the certain rawness won't win any new listeners. Technically, Peter Hammill is an average player of piano. And he's an average player of guitar too. So it's obvious that the power of this music comes from the unique vocalist/lyricist. For those who dislike his voice, listening to this set through would be mere torture. Not that it would be a light task for a dedicated fan either. In the liner notes Hammill admits that there can be TOO MUCH of Peter Hammill to digest at once, referring both to the restricted lengths of the concerts and the lengths of the CD's that only in three cases out of seven exceed the 70-minute mark. He also encourages the listener to edit his/her own ideal set list.

The four gig themes in Japan were "What if I forgot my guitar?", "What if there no piano?", "'What if I knew this was the last show I'd ever do?" and "'What if I played only VdGG/VdG songs?" You can check out the set lists as well as the three other (more or less artificial) CD themes on the album page. Track lengths are unfortunately missing, but in the leaflet PH has listed the studio albums for all songs (a gesture I appreciate!), and the discographies of both VdGG - or VdG - and Hammill's solo career are being covered pretty evenly, ie. there are no many albums that are not represented at all. Some are by one song only, e.g. 'Afterwards' from the VdGG debut (1968), gorgeous 'The Comet...' from In Camera (1974), 'Too Many of My Yesterdays' from And Close As This (1986), 'Time to Burn' from In a Foreign Town (1988), superb 'A Way Out' from Out of Water (1990) or 'I Will Find You' from Fireships (1992). The last mentioned song is one of the most banal songs in this set, and Out of Water would have been a suitable source album in general for one-man performances, just to pick up two examples of could-have-been-better -cases. Some albums, e.g. Chameleon in the Shadow of the Night, Enter K, Patience, or the latest at the time, Thin Air (2009), are sources for three or four songs.

To get the idea of those solo shows, it wouldn't be unwise to choose the 2-CD version instead of the box set. The most irrelevant is the 7th disc containing alternate versions (yeah, talk about "fans only" stuff...). The disc containing only VdGG/VdG songs was the most striking disappointment for me. Simply because these ripped-down versions are SO inferior to the originals! This naturally applies also to some solo stuff, though to notably smaller degree. The better I remember the original, the more I miss the other instruments such as the violin/viola of Stuart Gordon or saxes and flutes of David Jackson that grace several PH albums. CD's 5 and 6 expand the song selection pretty well (even though being under an hour's length) and offer well-functioning songs such as 'Autumn', 'The Lie' and 'Four Pails'. To sum up: if you're a die-hard fan of Peter Hammill and enjoy his unique magic created by passionate vocals and meaningful song-writing, also in the rawest of settings, you'll enjoy this box set. For all others I advice to get some of the best studio albums instead.

 From The Trees by HAMMILL, PETER album cover Studio Album, 2017
3.84 | 28 ratings

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From The Trees
Peter Hammill Eclectic Prog

Review by javajeff

4 stars This is another fantastic release from Peter Hammill, and a very welcome addition. He is an excellent song writer, and provides a vocal performance and phrasing like no one else. With such an enormous catalog of albums, finding new ground must be a huge challenge. The first thing I noticed with this recording beyond the sparse instrumentation is the layered vocals. Some of the backing vocals sound like there are contributors on this album. From The Trees does not deviate much from other of his modern releases, but surely progresses and advances his unique sound. There are no bad tracks on the album, but What Lies Ahead, On Deaf Ears, and Torpor are early standouts for me. I am a huge fan, and can listen to his material for hours. From the Trees is another adventure that I will enjoy in my collection. 4.5/5. Thank you Peter.
 None Of The Above by HAMMILL, PETER album cover Studio Album, 2000
2.79 | 65 ratings

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None Of The Above
Peter Hammill Eclectic Prog

Review by CliffX

5 stars After more than 35 years of Prog in my life, here arrives NONE OF THE ABOVE. A big fan of VDGG since early 70's, always thought this band would be forever underrated. The same with Peter Hammill. The other Peter conquered the world with more accessible (very good) material, but this Peter would continue in the underground world. Since the 70's the music wasn't the same. Creativity ended up in the late 70's and comercial times arrived. In 2000 this beautiful CD appeared and I bought it with curiosity. I think this album is perfectly magical for a listenner like me, who was tired of unsuccessfully searching for new and fresh music. Never thought it was so damn good! It is dark like all VDGG but fresh at the same time. I'm a guitar player myself and I think Peter did a very good job with the guitars. He is a fairly good piano player too. Great songs, sound ambients, lyrics, majestic hymns (Astart) like the old times. Itīs a nowadays masterpiece.

 In Camera by HAMMILL, PETER album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.14 | 346 ratings

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In Camera
Peter Hammill Eclectic Prog

Review by Progfan97402

5 stars This is by far my favorite solo album from Peter Hammill. Of the few solo albums I own by him, I found them hit or miss. For example, 1977's Over I just plain couldn't get into (I realize he was undergoing a messy divorce and had to express that). Ph7 is pretty good, though, and The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage is one of his best. In Camera follows Silent Corner, but the only VdGG member involved here is Guy Evans (OK, so was Chris Judge-Smith, but he was only a very early member of the group). Aside from Evans, is also David Hentschel for the ARP synth programming and Chris Judge-Smith (as mentioned before). Paul Whitehead is also credited, but he was totally unaware he even performed on the album because he already moved to the United States by this time, and was likely an earlier recording he made that was just lying around. Before I go any further, there's definitely a debate about what ARP synth is being used on this album. I've seen sources state ARP 2600. I have always suspect it was the ARP 2500, and here's the reason why: David Hentschel used a 2500 Elton John's "Rocket Man" and most notably "Funeral for a Friend". He programs the ARP on In Camera, Peter Hammill plays it here, and he never used any ARP on any of his other solo albums leaving me to believe it was David Hentschel's 2500. Plus it has a lot of sounds that seem too elaborate and sound effects too complex for a 2600 (I should know, I own a 2600, and I can't get it to do many of those sounds heard on In Camera). Unless there were photos taken of In Camera sessions, I can only guess. Plus the album only states "ARP synthesizer", which could mean (in 1974) Odyssey, Pro Soloist (which would hardly be those), 2600 or 2500.

It seems a couple of the songs on In Camera were Aerosol Grey Machine and Pawn Hearts leftovers, I mean to say, written during that time period, but recorded at the end of 1973/beginning of 1974. Anyways, this stuff is just as great as anything coming out of Van der Graaf Generator. "Ferret and Featherbird" is a gentle acoustic number you often hear from Hammill, this being written in 1969, so it wouldn't seem out of place on The Aerosol Grey Machine (itself intended as a Hammill solo album, but leaked out as a VdGG album). "(No More) The Sub-Mariner" is nothing short of amazing. Those ARP synth sounds are just unbelievable, and the dramatic approach Hammill gives us is truly a sight to behold! I really love that powerful pulsing synth sound that Hammill does here. "Tapeworm" rocks even more than your typical VdGG, while "Again" is a gentle acoustic number that leads to the dramatic "Faint-Heart and the Sermon". Again the ARP rears its heard, with some synth sounds that don't sound too different from "Funeral for a Friend" that leads me to think it was a 2500. It also has some cool synth effects, but I shouldn't forget the nice Mellotron passages found here. "Gog"/"Magog (In Bromine Chambers)" is truly unbelievable. Dramatic to a capital "D" with harmonium being used and his melodramatic voice. You start thinking the reason for a solo career is because some of this stuff would been too melodramatic even for VdGG standards (you can almost imagine Hugh Banton, Guy Evans, and David Jackson telling him to "Cool it down on the melodrama"). Then the album ends up with some strange sound effects that just sound plain sinister. This is truly a career highlight for Peter Hammill, as far as I'm concerned. This album is very much a classic and to me a five star rating, comes with my very highest recommendation!

 Roaring Forties by HAMMILL, PETER album cover Studio Album, 1994
3.29 | 84 ratings

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Roaring Forties
Peter Hammill Eclectic Prog

Review by Progresearcher

5 stars I was almost shocked when I saw the - incredibly - low rating of the "Roaring Forties" album, and I'm pretty sure that some of its 'raters' (yeah, those who are willing to do anything that helps them create what's just a semblance of their activity as a matter of fact) have either never listened to it or only done so once. No music lover should forget that any profound progressive rock album requires repeated listens. "Roaring Forties" will hardly grab your attention right away. But give the CD several spins and you will love it to death, unless you're a novice to the genre (and, by saying so, I mean classic prog rock - not neo). Most of the music is deep and is chock-full of the arrangements that are highly intricate and intriguing alike. In other words, this is a 100-percent masterpiece. In fact, only two albums from Peter Hammill's solo discography, this one and "The Silent Corner", always gladden me as much as the best Van Der Graaf Generator albums ("H to He", "Pawn Hearts" and "Godbluff"). So please do not believe any hasty conclusions. Rely exclusively on your own ears, your own experience, et cetera.
 The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage by HAMMILL, PETER album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.31 | 765 ratings

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The Silent Corner And The Empty Stage
Peter Hammill Eclectic Prog

Review by LSDisease

5 stars This is my favorite Hammill's album and along with VDGG's Pawn Hearts my favorite album of all time. The most shoking and most artful in the same time. This album same as VDGG releases isn't for those who think that Pink Floyd defined art rock , no no no, this album is for those who are deranged enough to sit through 50 minute apocalypse and later say : would you like another cup of tea dear? Well, anyway, I really love this album. If Pawn Hearts can be described as an organized chaos this one is chaos and beauty. Yes, so much beauty in this chaos, that's why I like it so much. It's not just chaos, you can find many misarable albums with just chaos. But this, this is MUSIC. And like other early Hammill's albums, the best in that box. Unless you don't want music. So If don't, buy some Can album. But if you want music listen to Peter Hammill and enjoy the perils of pure pleasure.
 In Camera by HAMMILL, PETER album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.14 | 346 ratings

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In Camera
Peter Hammill Eclectic Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Hammill's creative progress for another solo album begins immediately after the release of the genuine ''The silent corner and the empty stage''.He stated that with every new work he wanted to explore something different and this time he decided to work on a project more or less by himself.Around the same time his younger brother Andy fell into coma after an accident with his bicycle and Hammill put all his stress into a creative process.He performed his arrangements on guitars, bass, piano and keyboards and received help in a number of tracks by ex- and present Van der Graaf Generator's drummers Judge Smith and Guy Evans, famous prog-related graphic artist Paul Whitehead on percussion and recording engineer David Hentschel on ARP synthesizer.The album, titled ''In camera'', was released on Charisma in June 1974.

After a vocal-heavy Art/Psych Rock effort and a dark Prog Rock masterpiece, ''In camera'' finds Hammill performing somewhere inbetween these two works, it is definitely his most sinister and haunting album of his early works, filled with dark piano lines, eerie synthesizers and muddy guitars to go along with Hammill's expressive and unique vocals.With no so many comforts regarding the sessions of an album by multi-instrumentalist, this one sounds more minimalistic, instrumental naked and extremely lyrical with only a few sections executed on three or more instruments, so it moves a bit away from the very complex and dense arrangements of the previous album, still holds series of interesting, atmospheric qualities noone except Peter Hammill could offer.''In camera'' is actually led by Hammill's vocal depth and a set of different musical backgrounds, including synth lines and piano movements, lots of acoustic soundscapes and some more regular moments with drumming and an effort closer to a normal group.Consider this more of a lyrical, theatrical and mystic delivery of orchestral, folky and cinematic arrangements with a poet leading the way.An original album in its own way with a powerful contrast between vocals and music and the first few attempts by Hammill on Experimental Music as proposed on the 17-min. ''Gog Magog'', the first part of which is a Gothic-like, intense Prog Rock opus with a full keyboard sound and dominant percussion, where the second 10-min. segment is filled with sound effects and noises, definitely one of an acquired taste, still seeing Hammill doing what he stated, developing his musical horizons.

Dark Art Rock by Mr. Hammill here.Impressive album for a work practically composed and executed by one man back in 1974, slightly too minimalistic and vocal-oriented, still containing the genuine values of Van Der Graaf Generator's offerings.Recommended.

 Over by HAMMILL, PETER album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.97 | 308 ratings

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Over
Peter Hammill Eclectic Prog

Review by Jeff Carney

2 stars No matter how much I admire Peter Hammill and no matter how much I adore so much of what he came up with in the first half of the seventies, I cannot understand the appeal of this album.

I've always wanted to like it. Always felt that given my level of appreciation for his work, perhaps I even should like it. But viewed through a somewhat objective musical lens, this album is a misstep of the highest order. A self-pity party wrapped up in often less than stellar songs, unfulfilling arrangements, less than interesting riffing and lyrical content that crosses the line between admirable self-confession and just plain pseudo-intellectual misery rants.

"Crying Wolf" starts the album in a fairly straightforward rock and roll manner. The problem is that the riff is somewhat of a throwaway and reveals a tendency that plagues some of Hammill's post- Nadir work; whereby the conceptual overrides the end result or even musical value. It's Hammill having decided that Rikki Nadir deserves a voice in his music, but to what does that concept equate? Here, I'm afraid it fails to move the meter much at all. The riff is played with little intensity. The shortcomings of Hammill's electric guitar playing give way to the concept, and the possibilities of the music struggle underneath this pretext. There simply isn't enough there in the first place to then strip things down.

"Autumn" is perhaps the best piece of music on the album. A gorgeous, twisting and hauntingly melodic song which contemplates the values in growing older in a relationship. Still, something here keeps this from being a home run. In this case, I think the arrangements are a bit cluttered and Graham Smith takes over at times when I want to hear *this* song in a somewhat more sparse manner. This is sometimes a problem for me with Hammill's work. I'll find his unaccompanied live versions of songs to be absolutely mind boggling but the arrangements on the albums to be undisciplined and a victim of the more is less approach.

"Time Heals" makes evident just what pain Hammill was enduring during the recording of this album. And despite one of his worst musical shifts about halfway through this one into a two chord piano riff that just doesn't need life, I think I should state at this point that in my book he is to be commended. Commended for being able to finish this project during a time when he was clearly in tremendous pain. I suppose that, particularly in youth, most of us understand all too well the lack of logic that sometimes follows the heart, so granted it is with older eyes that I say this; but this song leaves me wondering if this woman deserved an entire album devoted to her? Hey! She ran off with your friend, man! Come on. Talk about "over." But instead Hammill begins to spend time on this album examining his own flaws. Even asking in "Alice" whether this is really the end of the story. Clearly a moment of hope amidst his heartbreak which fails to acknowledge the deeper issue at hand: What kind of woman leaves a seven year relationship and runs off with your friend? I can't help but feel a combination of sympathy for and frustration with Hammill at this point.

"Looking Glass" is a beautiful piece of work. For some reason it reminds me of Black Sabbath's "She's Gone" in that both songs seem to be rooted in unabashed sadness and seek to never leave a drop of hope on the floor for anything but loneliness. For some reason I find Hammill's delivery here to be solid but not on par with his very best. Can't really out my finger on why. It's a damned good track. I'll leave it at that. As is "Betrayed," which follows, featuring Hammill in a pure, raw form as only he can capture.

And that about does it. By the time I get through "Yoga" and "Lost and Found" I am ready to play "The Peel Sessions" and remind myself just what a genius Hammill could be on his own. On Over, he has revealed a side to his writing which, while entirely original, lacks defined musical passion and power. It's an album for his ex, not for me.

 Fool's Mate by HAMMILL, PETER album cover Studio Album, 1971
3.77 | 299 ratings

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Fool's Mate
Peter Hammill Eclectic Prog

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Peter Hammill's debut album stands in relation to his solo career much like "The Aerosol Grey Machine" does to his output with Van Der Graaf Generator: as a worthwhile anomaly separate from the main body of his recorded work. The album is notable for its refreshing lack of tortured self- analysis, placing it alongside the sunny proto-punk of "Nadir's Big Chance" as the easiest Peter Hammill album to digest in a single sitting.

Compared to subsequent efforts it can appear disarmingly facile at times. Song titles like "Happy" and "Sunshine" suggest an uncomplicated optimism rare for such an otherwise thoughtful artist. And "Vision" stands as arguably one of the purest love ballads ever written, by Hammill or anyone else. But as always there's more to the album than what first meets the ear, and when played in isolation there isn't one song here that isn't unblinkingly honest, or less than typically literate.

Even the jaunty album opener "Imperial Zeppelin" undermines its own Utopian vision of rising above a planet where "hate is seething / nothing's worth believing" with a quick, cold shower of fatalism uncommon in 1971: "Of course we all know very well / It wouldn't work, but what the hell..." And that's during one of the album's lighter songs! By the time Hammill begins slashing at his acoustic guitar with unconcealed fury (in the otherwise gently reflective "I Once Wrote Some Poems") it's clear a very different and darker species of butterfly was emerging from its musical chrysalis.

Very little here conforms to the accepted Prog Rock stereotypes of the 1970's, except the creative thinking and restless intellect ("Let me sleep / Let me dream / Let me be!" he implores us in "Re- Awakening"). At this early stage of his career Hammill was already staking his position as a uniquely personal singer-songwriter, standing apart from the Progressive Rock ideals of the time. Despite the crowded guest list on his first solo album, including all his Van Der Graaf pals, plus Robert Fripp and members of Lindisfarne, Hammill was (and remains) the driver, chief mechanic, and conductor on a bandwagon of one.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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